Cats Open Season with 3-0 Win over Western Carolina

The Kentucky volleyball team captured a season-opening victory over Western Carolina, 3-0, Friday night at the Clemson Big Orange Bash in Clemson, S.C. The Wildcat win gave new UK coach Craig Skinner his first victory as a head coach.

The Kentucky Wildcats (1-0, 0-0 SEC) were led by senior Danielle Wallace with 15 kills on .619 hitting. Fellow outside hitter Melissa Popp had nine kills on .471 hitting, just off her career high. Amy Kaplan was close behind with eight kills and .467 hitting.

The Wildcats hit .494 on the evening and recorded 13 service aces. They held the Catamounts to .163 hitting, including a -.042 mark in game two.

Four UK players made their collegiate debuts against the Catamounts. Freshmen Queen Nzenwa, Alisa Pierce, Ashlee Fisher and Erin Turner logged their first action as Wildcats. Fisher racked up eight kills on the night while hitting .400, while Nzenwa tallied seven kills and no errors on .538 hitting. Pierce had five service aces in the match.

The Wildcats appeared timid on the match?s opening point, letting Western Carolina send an ace over the net. Kentucky got back on track and took its first offensive point with a kill by Wallace to put the UK lead at 4-2. Alisa Pierce and Ashlee Fisher subbed in for the first time in their UK careers, and Pierce immediately sank two aces on the Catamounts.

UK pushed to a 16-9 lead, forcing a WCU timeout, and continued to climb from there. A 10-1 run put the Wildcats up 26-13, but UK allowed missteps to let Western Carolina back in the game. After being held on game point for five rallies, UK was finally able to close the 30-23 win with a kill from Wallace.

The Cats rang up a 4-0 lead to open game two, and didn?t look back. After gaining an 18-9 lead, UK caused a WCU timeout. Kentucky continued to dominate, scoring five of the next six points, including three consecutive points by Wallace. The Wallace run included two kills and a solo block to give UK a 23-10 lead.

Kentucky allowed just two more Catamount points, dominating down the stretch with three consecutive aces from Pierce. Kills from Popp and Kaplan sealed a 30-12 UK victory. The Wildcats hit .545 in the second game.

After opening with a 4-1 lead, Kentucky allowed Western Carolina back in the game after several miscues. The Catamounts tied the score twice before another Wildcat run put the score at 19-15. The Wildcats kept their distance down the stretch, pulling away with strong play from Wallace and Kaplan to seal a 30-24 victory.

Kentucky now moves to 21-8 all-time in season openers and has won its last two season debuts.

Kentucky returns to action on Saturday morning at 9:30 a.m. against UConn. The Wildcats close out tournament play against host Clemson at 5 p.m.